Joint oral statement to the Human Rights Council on Algeria
On 27 March, Lawyers for Lawyers and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute delivered an oral statement during the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council. During this session, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Outcome Report of Algeria was adopted. Lawyers for Lawyers had already submitted a UPR report for the UPR-session of Algeria.
The statement reads as follows:
We welcome the decision of Algeria to accept some of the recommendations made at its fourth UPR related to the protection of human rights defenders, including lawyers.i However, there are also recommendations relating to human rights defenders that Algeria has not accepted or considers already implemented. We call upon Algeria to accept and effectively implement all these recommendations without delay.
A fundamental aspect of the rule of law is access to legal representation by an independent legal profession. Lawyers must be able to carry out their professional duties without harassment, intimidation or improper interference.
In Algeria, lawyers are often faced with harassment and criminal prosecution, especially when they work on human rights cases and the defense of Hirak detainees. Lawyers’ professional activities are also being hindered due to difficulties in accessing clients in police custody and not knowing when their clients are presented to court.
Furthermore, lawyers are often victims of disciplinary measures based on improper grounds. This includes being suspended from practicing law without any explanation and being “warned” by the bar association not to speak publicly about certain politically sensitive cases.
Concerns about the freedom of expression have also been raised, particularly since the disruption of the Hirak protests and the introduction of Ordinance No. 21-08 which broadened the already vague definition of “terrorism”, allowing the criminalization of peaceful dissent. We are also concerned about Ordinance No. 21-09 which provides for up to 15 years imprisonment for individuals who share information deemed “classified” – defined in a broad manner – and 3 to 5 years imprisonment for individuals who share information about ongoing judicial investigations.
We urge Algeria to:
- Effectively implement all supported UPR recommendations without delay;
- Take immediate measures to ensure lawyers’ protection physical safety and freedom of expression.
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